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Watch out for bugs in your ear!

"I was horseback riding about 3 months ago when I felt a sharp pain in my left ear, then it was fine,... just occasionally I feel there is still something in there, I think it must be ear wax buildup" the patient explained. She attended our clinic in Crystal Palace for an ear wax removal this week.

I put the camera in her left ear and here is what I found (see below picture). Any guess what this might be?

Microsuction to remove ear wax and foreign objects from ear - HearingNow ear clinics London UK

It is summertime and people will spend more time outdoors and in nature. The last thing you want is to end up in A&E (Accident and Emergency) to remove a foreign object from your ear. Read this article to have a better understanding of such a situation and what options you have to manage it.

Why are bugs and flies attracted to human heads?

Many insects, mosquitoes included, are attracted by the odour of the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas that humans and other animals naturally exhale. However, mosquitoes can also pick up other cues that signal a human is nearby. They use their vision to spot a host and thermal sensory information to detect body heat.

Planning a day out in nature

If you plan for a walk, hike, or picnic in nature make sure you:

  • Take a bug-repellent spray with you. Find a spot with no wind and apply gently over your clothes. Avoid inhaling the spray.

  • Spray or apply some sun cream on your exposed skin and in particular over the pinna of your ears to avoid damage to your skin. Even on a cloudy day, there might be enough harmful sun radiation to damage very sensitive skin (reference).

I feel something is in my ear!

A bug in your ear can be uncomfortable but usually does not lead to any serious complications. Symptoms include discomfort, redness, itching, swelling, drainage, and pain. You may also hear scratchy noises or have moving sensations inside the ear. To remove a bug from your ear, try tilting your head to the side and shaking gently persistent ear pain, but not localized.

What should I do if there is a bug in my ear?

Do not panic, calm down. Do not hit the ear as this can lead to additional problems. Contact your closest audiologist for help. If in the wild and cannot wait you still have a few options.

If the bug is still alive, try pouring a tiny amount of vegetable oil or olive oil into the ear to suffocate it. If the bug is dead, try to flush it out of the ear using warm water. Pouring some warm water in your ear might bring it out along with the oil in your ear.

Never use cotton buds as very likely you will push the bug deeper in the ear canal and make the situation more complicated.

Even if a bug in the ear is removed in the field or at home, you should still consult with an audiologist or your GP. Sometimes, part of the bug may be removed, but not the entire thing. Do not hesitate to see a specialist if the insect has bitten or scratched the eardrum and if you experience some of the symptoms listed above, like ear pain or bloody drainage.

How do I avoid ear bugs when outdoors?

To avoid ear bugs, you can keep your sleeping place clean. Or, in the case of camping, you may want to close the tent when you are inside but also when you go away and use insect spray.

Can a bug live in my ear?

An ear-penetrated bug will likely die quickly. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, it may remain alive for several days, causing discomfort and noise in the ear.

What happened to the patient with the foreign object in the left ear?

I managed to remove the foreign object from the left ear of the patient and it was interesting to know that it was not a bug or a fly, it was a very small grass seed! It went into the ear canal when the patient was galloping on her horse, and later on, she pushed it deeper in the ear canal with a cotton bud, assuming this was an ear wax buildup.

grass seed in patient ear - hearingnow uk ear wax removal - London


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